Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Biden workgroup calls for broadband, reallocation of federal aid, to boost areas most hurt by fossil-fuel job losses

Map highlighting areas highly dependent on fossil-energy activities and jobs

In January President Biden appointed an interagency working group to study how to boost local economies in areas hurt by a decline in fossil-fuel jobs such as mining, drilling, processing, refining, and power generation. Its first report, released earlier this week, "calls for more spending on high-speed internet, environmental clean-up and other efforts to create jobs," Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "The report did not propose any new pots of money to accomplish those goals. Rather, it identified more than $37 billion in existing funding that could be used for projects in 'energy communities' affected by the job losses."

The group recommends prioritizing coal-reliant communities for federal aid, and identifies the 25 most in need of aid; the top four are all in Central Appalachia. It also recommends prioritizing tribal energy communities and "fenceline communities," those near energy or industrial facilities. Their residents are often people of color and disproportionately exposed to pollution and other environmental impacts from such facilities, but without the benefit of energy employment, the report says.

The report also recommends a series of town-hall meetings in affected communities within the next three months to hear residents' perspectives and ideas. The group's next steps include increasing federal funding and identifying ways to ensure that funding makes it to energy communities. "The group also expects to compile a list of projects that could be funded, and is supposed to set up a 'one-stop shop' for energy communities seeking access to federal help," Estep reports.

No comments: